Happy Birthday, Kerri Joy

Today is Kerri Joy Vinyard’s 30th birthday… she’s one month and nine days younger than I am.

Kerri and I met for the first time when I was (ill-advisedly) dating her shiftless elder brother Greg. She was two grades behind me in school, so for a Big Freshwoman-about-Campus like myself, she merited little or no notice.

Time passed. Greg and I broke up. We got back together. We broke up again. I joined the Aca-Dec team. The next year, Kerri did too.

Aca-Dec, at least in the form it had at Amos Alonzo Stagg High at that time, was a weirdly intimate, competitive pressure-cooker environment. No matter your personal feelings about various members, you were bonded to them irrevocably by virtue of spending an hour together every day in class, plus several hours every weekend, plus retreats, lunchtime challenges, late-night study sessions, et cetera, et cetera. So even those people whom you despised became, if not precisely friends, surrogate family members of the crazy-Aunt-Lindy-in-the-attic sort.

And in the middle of this all, there was Kerri.

I’m not even sure when we became friends. Somehow along the line, we discovered we shared an acute interest in self-guided study in art criticism, history, sociology and creative writing at the Blackwater Cafe rather than externally-directed on-campus academics. So more days than not, we’d hop into my minivan (well, my mom’s, technically) and take off from school for Parts Unknown (but usually the Blackwater). But we always came back for Aca-Dec. We had a commitment, you know.

Fairly quickly, our extracurricular adventures evolved into the regular production of all manner of creative projects notable primarily for their vulgarity and silliness. We invented a radio station (yes, we were 16 years old at the time) and tape-recorded ourselves producing all manner of "shows" and "commercials." Our theme song was the Misfits’ "Braineaters," at least when it wasn’t "Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?"

The pinnacle of our achievements was the publication of "What to Do on a Day…", an "underground newspaper" (in our exurban innocence, we didn’t even know the word "zine") that we distributed en masse at the Blackwater at first, later on campus. Hoo boy. That opened a can of worms. Even though it was produced pseudonymously (Kerri was "Picasso," I was "Spartacus Jane"), the administration managed to stop busting smokers long enough to figure out who we were and call us into the office.

Dr Asuncion (beleaguered principal): You two need to stop distributing this at school.

Kerri and me: No.

Dr Asuncion: Then we’ll have to suspend you.

Kerri and me: OK.

Of course, they didn’t follow through with it, and Kerri and I enjoyed a brief but addicting reign of popularity unlike anything I, at least, had ever experienced…. culminating in leading a mass walkout to protest the Rodney King verdict. Heady times, indeed.

At the end of the school year (during which our Aca-Dec team won the county competition and went on to place an unprecedented 12th in the state… not bad for a bunch of potsmokin’ fuck-ups from tha hood) and after a glorious summer during which my parents apparently decided that since I’d managed to graduate and get into college, I no longer needed such strict supervision…

…I moved to Santa Cruz and commenced to miss Kerri horribly. She came up and visited on several weekends, and I came home often and did the same. But as is every ignorant 17-year-old’s wont, I took up with some idiot guy she hated and her visits thinned out… especially after I dropped out of school and moved to SoCal. (Stupid! Stupid! Move AWAY from SoCal, not TOWARD it! Ah, lessons learned…)

One weekend, Kerri was supposed to come visit me in Ventura. But I made her very very angry by engaging in an Exchange of Letters (and Mix Tapes) with my Evil Ex-BF, whom you may remember was her brother. So she didn’t come.

She went to a Counting Crows concert instead. And on the way home, the imbecile driving the van swerved on the freeway (she claims there was a dog, I claim there was intoxication), rolled it down the embankment and killed Kerri instantly.

Today is Kerri’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Kerri, you crazy Leo/Libra rising/Aries moon, you. Love ya bunches.

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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6 Responses to Happy Birthday, Kerri Joy

  1. Gwyn says:

    Oh my gosh, Molly, I didn’t see that coming at all! Happy birthday indeed, Kerri Joy. You honor her memory well.
    Also, I read your entries and have decided that except for the “pot smokin'” part, you must be my younger Evil Twin! Veteran of Debate and Forensics, high school AND college, and in trouble with the principal for my creative editorials. Sigh.
    Those were the days.

  2. Jen G says:

    Oh Molly, what an ending. Happy Birthday Kerri Joy.
    I have lurked around for a couple of months here but do not think I have commented before, maybe once. I was working my way through the story just to post about Aca-Dec. I can not believe there are others who survived! I was there, too, but I doubt we competed directly at state since I am 3 years older. I remember those study days and weekends (was this a volunteer activity…)
    So much info shoved in the brain. We won county both years (I was Captain as a senior, yeah serious geek-age). good times, seriously.
    Have a good weekend.

  3. Mimi says:

    May her Memory be Eternal, I’m so sorry, Molly. Happy Birthday, Kerri Joy!

  4. Molly, this is a lovely tribute to a person who sounds like a wonderful friend. Happy birthday Kerri Joy!

  5. Thank you for sharing your memories of your friend with us to honor her birthday. May she live on forever that way….((hugs))

  6. Dan Scott says:

    Still a sad tragedy that this beautiful, freewheeling, lovely soul is gone.

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